It’s that day of the year again.
The day where a bunch of women strut down a diamond runway in their skivvies with giant wings attached to their backs.
That’s right – it’s time for The Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show.
I’m writing this Tuesday night (while the show is airing, though I’m not watching it), but I’ll be posting this tomorrow morning (or, if you're reading this, today).
If you don’t know what The Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show is, then I’m not sure whether to applaud you or ask whether you live under a rock. It’s basically one of the biggest and most anticipated runway shows, and it airs on television to showcase all things Victoria’s Secret (AKA bras, panties, and very stereotypically sexy ladies).
Let me begin by saying that I actually worked at Victoria’s Secret for several years in high school and college (as a sales associate and Bra Expert – yes, Bra Expert is a real title). I also use to watch the VS Fashion Show – I looked forward to it. I loved the extravagant wings and I’d always loved Vicky’s lingerie (I spent every paycheck I ever made in that store while employed there). I own every color of PINK (a section of Victoria's Secret that's caters to younger women/girls) sweatpants and my underwear drawer is full of VS goodies (I literally have over 200 pairs of skivvies…TMI? Sorry, not sorry.).
But the longer I worked there, and the older I got, the more I realized that Victoria’s Secret has some serious issues.
First and foremost, they cater only to the most generic sizes. AA to DD – nothing bigger in cup sizes, and nothing bigger than a 40 (which is NOT big – this is the measurement under the bust). As far as panties go, XS to XL…that’s it. And in terms of fancy lingerie – the bustiers and corsets and sexy little ensembles – there are even fewer size options. As a 34A, I could never find a sexy lingerie set that fit my itty bitty boobies. They started at 34B. This always bothered me – why shouldn’t gals with little breasts have lingerie options too?
And I can’t tell you how many times I had to tell women – very normal sized women – that we didn’t have a bra big enough for them. Or that we didn’t carry pajamas in an XXL (or even an XL most of the time). The size limitations frustrated me – I hated having to turn women away. I know what an amazing difference a good bra or cute panties can make in a woman’s life. I also know that sounds silly, but I’m being 100% serious. I watched women light up when they finally found a bra that fit – that felt good and made them feel confident. It was so amazing to help give women that little boost of happiness. But it absolutely sucked having to deny other women that joy.
Several years later and much more of a feminist, I look back on my time at Vicky’s and am even more upset. I haven’t been in a Victoria’s Secret in about half a year, but last time I stepped inside I took notice of all the pictures. Images of long, lean, busty but skinny models with flowing hair and flat stomachs (no different than when I'd worked there several years prior). I checked on the sizes in stock. Same lack of diversity. And I looked at the women wandering around and realized that most of them would not find their size in this store.
Then I consider the VS Fashion Show, a tribute to society’s “perfect” woman. That tanned, toned beauty who fits into everything flawlessly. Every single model has long, flowing hair. Each has a perfect, glistening white smile. Each is at least 5’8 and has a tiny waist, but still somehow manages to have voluptuous boobs. These are the Angels, and they’re a physical representation of the ideal VS woman (and, for many people, the ideal woman in general).
This is absurd (obviously). We all know that beauty and sexiness is so much more than any specific physical attributes. But Victoria’s Secret seems loath to accept that. And that’s depressing. Because here is a retail behemoth that could make some serious change in the worlds of fashion and sex. Why in the hell doesn’t Vicky’s diversify their fashion show? Why don’t they sell larger (and smaller) sizes?
I get so peeved every time I see the line up of VS models. NONE of them have short hair. In fact, the one year that Karlie Kloss rocked the runway with an adorable bob, people (read: men) freaked out and complained that she didn’t look as “sexy.” She immediately got extensions. There are also no women larger than a size 2 (I’m guessing here, but they all look teeny). Underwear is not just for slender, long-haired ladies. It’s for everyone for goodness sakes. We all have bits and pieces to put in undergarments and we all deserve to feel sexy doing so (and not feel ashamed when we don’t fit into one store’s idea of beauty).
Yes, I do still own a lot of VS merchandise. And I understand why people shop there - their stuff is cute and some of it is really well made. However, I'm doing my best to limit my shopping at Victoria's Secret, and I certainly don’t watch the runway show. I don’t want to encourage or contribute to a brand that is so blatantly exclusive and so predicable in promoting ridiculous, unhealthy stereotypes.
I also don't want to support a brand that blatantly supports (though I don’t think intentionally…at least I hope not) rape culture. Vicky’s constantly has panties with messages like, ‘sure thing,’ and ‘ready for anything’ in their PINK line. Um, okay. Cool message VS. Especially when this particular section of Victoria’s Secret (the PINK section) caters to adolescent/teenage girls.
Look, I appreciate sexy underthings as much as the next girl. I really, really love them actually. I’m all about expressing one’s sexuality and being sexual and all that good, sexual stuff (that's a lot of 'sexuals'). But I don’t want to wear a g-string that says “sure thing,” on it. And I certainly don’t want my 13-year-old cousin buying those. It may seem overly dramatic to some that I’m upset over a pair of underwear with a ‘flirty’ message scrawled across the crotch. But rape and rape culture is not something to take lightly, nor is it something I want to support – no matter how small or seemingly silly the perpetrator is.
Besides, there are so many awesome lingerie/underwear brands to buy from whose products are made for women of all shapes, sizes, and styles. And they support feminism/consent/self-love.
Check out one or all of these awesome/feminist/inclusive brands:
Naja – This amazing brand of gorgeous, super soft, wonderfully made bras and panties is sure to make you feel comfy and pretty. Naja has certain sizes listed, but if you don’t see your size they will absolutely make it happen! Plus, this woman empowering brand “helps educate single mothers so that they can learn marketable skills.” They go on to employ these ladies – awesome right? Their undergarments are totally affordable, and they have an adorable line of ‘Cheeky Knickers,’ which have all sorts of fun and funny graphics (I want the sundae panties). http://instagram.com/najagal
Feminist Style – These panties are all about feminism. With grrrl-power statements like ‘let’s talk about sex,’ and ‘only yes means yes,’ these skivvies are a welcome change. Plus they have a wide range of sizes and the underwear are super duper cute. Their message is“Let’s shift our culture from sexually objectifying women to encouraging communication and consent!” Amen! https://www.facebook.com/FeministStyle
Dear Kate – Dear Kate is another incredible underwear brand. These undergarments are extra special in that they have a “silky-soft, patent-pending fabric,” and each pair is “wicking, stain releasing, and leak-resistant,” meaning you can toss out your old period panties and have stylish undies all month long. And their newest line is called the “League of Ladies,” and each pair of panties features a badass gal (like Harriet Tubman, Frida Kahlo, or Amelia Earhart). The women behind this brand are adamant about providing comfort and style to ladies of all styles and shapes. http://instagram.com/dearkates
So ladies (and men), I urge you to turn off the VS fashion show. I encourage you to buy your lingerie from brands who really, truly support women and women’s rights. Put your boobs and bum in products that empower women of every kind and support grrrl power!